Ig Nobel prizes for hanging rhinos and gum stuck to the floor

Scientists at Cornell University wanted to know if the health of animals could be compromised when they dangle by their legs under a helicopter.

Scientists at Cornell University wanted to know if the health of animals could be compromised when they dangle by their legs under a helicopter.


An experiment that hung black rhinos upside down to see what effect it had on these animals received one of this year’s Ig Nobel prizes.

Other awardees studied bacteria in gum stuck to sidewalks and how to control cockroaches on submarines.

All the fun happened online this time.

Fake prizes are not as famous as “real” Nobel prizes.

The scientific humor magazine, Annals of Improbable Research, Annals of Improbable Investigations, assures that its Ig Nobel laureates “first they should make you laugh but then make you think“.

Rhinos upside down

And the rhino study, which won the transportation research award this year, does exactly that. What could seem crazier than hanging 12 rhinos upside down for 10 minutes?

But Cornell University wildlife vet Robin Radcliffe and his colleagues did exactly this in Namibia. The scientists they wanted to know if the health of animals could be compromised when they dangle by their legs under a helicopter.

A rhino being transported upside down hanging from a helicopter

Namibian Ministry of the Environment
The black rhino is transported between areas of fragmented habitat to ensure the genetic diversity of the critically endangered species.

This type of air transport is used with increasing frequency to move rhinos between areas of fragmented habitat.

However, no one had done the basic research to check that heart and lung function of the calmed animals were easily adapted to flying in that position, Radcliffe said.

“Namibia was not the first country to move rhinos face-up with helicopters, but they were the first to step back and say, ‘hey, let’s look at this and find out, is this transport safe for rhinos? “Added the Cornell researcher.

Radcliffe’s team, in collaboration with the Namibian Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, suspended 12 tranquilized rhinos from a crane and measured their physical responses.

Rhino lying on its side on a platform hanging from a helicopter

Namibian Ministry of the Environment
The study showed that it is better for rhinos to be moved on their backs than on their side.

The study showed that it is better for rhinos to be moved in this unusual position than simply lying down or on your side.

“I think the reason is that when a rhino is on its side, it affects the blood flow. In other words, the lower parts of the lung receive a lot of blood flow for gas exchange, but the upper part of the lung, just because of gravity, is not perfusing well, so when a rhino is hanging on its back, it’s basically like I’m standing still; the lung is also perfused ”.

“We have also seen that rhinos that are on their side too long, or on the sternum, suffer muscle damage, get myopathy, because they weigh a lot. When they are carried on their backs there is no pressure on their legs apart from the strap around their ankle, ”Radcliffe explained.

Royal nobel awards

Virtual delivery of Ig Nobel prizes

Ig Nobel
The team that studied rhinoceros received their Rich Roberts Nobel Prize in Chemistry (bottom left).

As usual with Ig Nobel, the prizes were awarded by real Nobel laureates, among them Frances Arnold (chemistry, 2018), Carl Weiman (physics, 2001) and Eric Maskin (economics, 2007).

The winners were awarded a paper trophy that they had to assemble themselves from a PDF print and a cash prize in the form of a counterfeit $ 10 billion Zimbabwean banknote.

When asked what he would do with his “cash” payment, Robin Radcliffe joked: “We are always looking for research funds.”

“When I found out about the Ig Nobel Prize, I wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing. But I think for us it is about that message, that ‘it makes you laugh and then think’ “.

“More and more people should understand what efforts are being made to try to save these amazing animals who live here on planet Earth with us ”.

Another team member, wildlife vet Pete Morkel, added: “This has really changed the translocation of rhinos, and even more the translocation of elephants. Lifting these large animals by the legs is a now accepted method.. The next thing we need to do is investigate its effect on other species such as buffalo, different species of hippopotamus, and maybe even giraffes. “

Winners

The complete list of winners of the Ig Nobel Prize 2021 is as follows:

Biology Award: Susanne Schötz, for analyzing variations of purrs, chirps, chatters, trills, murmurs, meows, whines, squeaks, hisses, howls, growls, and other modes of communication between cats and humans.

Ecology Award: Leila Satari and colleagues, for using genetic analysis to identify the different species of bacteria that reside in discarded gum stuck on sidewalks in various countries.

Chemistry Award: Jörg Wicker and colleagues, for chemically analyzing the air inside movie theaters, to test whether the smells produced by an audience reliably indicate levels of violence, sex, antisocial behavior, drug use and profanity in the movie they are watching.

Economics Award: Pavlo Blavatskyy, for discovering that the obesity of politicians in a country can be a good indicator of corruption in that nation.

Medicine Award: Olcay Cem Bulut and colleagues, for demonstrating that sexual orgasms can be as effective as decongestant medications in improving nasal breathing.

Peace Prize: Ethan Beseris and colleagues, for testing the hypothesis that humans developed beards to protect themselves from blows to the face.

Physics Award: Alessandro Corbetta and colleagues, for conducting experiments to learn why pedestrians do not constantly collide with other pedestrians.

Award of Cinethical: Hisashi Murakami and colleagues, for conducting experiments to understand why pedestrians sometimes collide with other pedestrians.

Entomology Award: John Mulrennan Jr and colleagues, for their study “A new method of cockroach control in submarines.”

Award of Transporte: Robin Radcliffe and colleagues, to determine by experiment if it is safer to transport a rhino in the air upside down.


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